It’s FA cup day, 4th round qualifying away at Aldershot, will it be 3rd time lucky, will the Shots be firing blanks?
A nice day, pleasantly autumnal, woolly jumper weather along with the lucky boxer shorts and lucky socks. Make sure they’re on the correct feet, the blue sock with the hole goes on the left foot, the other sock, a black one, has to be inside out. It was around 9:30 when Parker arrived, Citra was gurgling on the back seat. Parker has just returned from his holiday, he’s been in Spain on the Costa Latte, strutting along the Playa Del Boy wearing nothing but his poppies red satin thong. He’s a regular strutter, apparently, he never lets a Diego by. Being of chalky complexion it didn’t take long before he turned bright red and blistered, this morning he looks like a roll of pink bubble wrap. Citra, is travelling today, although he’s got the lurgies. Citra says he has a permanent drip on the end of his nose, we didn’t ask which end. At least he hasn’t got one of those tickly irritating coughs, it’s quite clear he’s getting some purchase, by the sound of the reverberating rattle each time he splurts out another black death induced hack followed by a long lingering wheeze. Nothing an ale won’t sort out. Just before 10:00 we arrive at Pharp’s abode, we know this is where Pharp lives due to the pungent yellow haze lingering overhead, there is the occasional swirl of purple mingling with the yellow, looks nice. You don’t see many birds about. Looking up at the flock of Canada geese, you can clearly see a ‘sharply veering wobbly right turn’ in the flight path, before swinging back on course a few miles further on. The lead goose looked quite unwell, I suspect he inhaled the first billful before leading the rest of the flock on a safer course. He crashed into a couple of his chums, they look nervously frightened, goose bumps I guess.
A decent drive down, punctuated by the obligatory hold ups on the M25, very reminiscent of two seasons in the league below. Egham, Godalming, Ashford (Middx), and all those clubs around these parts, makes one shudder. We arrived at the White Lion in Aldershot around midday. Pharp got in first and proclaimed “we have arrived just in time, the landlady is pulling everything off”, Pharp had a smirk on his face. A very pleasant landlady with an antipodean accent and of south pacific appearance, duly served us our ales. The White Lion is owned by Triffle FFF brewery, from just down the road in Alton, birthplace of Courage Directors, when is was a far better product than it is today.
The White Lion feels like a real town pub with live music at the weekends, quizzes and so on. The scooter club meet here on Sundays, with scooter ornaments on all the shelves throughout the pub. A generally good feel about it. We were the first ones in, but within half hour the locals were perched on their regular stools at the bar.
Citra and Fuggles went for Moondance, Pharp had Pressed Rat and Warthog whilst Parker settled for the Alton’s Pride. Moondance is a lovely pale ale coming in at 4.2% abv. Floral nose, bitterness with a sweetish finish, very nice and very refreshing. Winner of many awards on a national level. It was natural that Pharp went for Pressed Rat and Warthog, for no other reason than its name and hoping that it would add some sort of dead animal aroma to any future emissions. Another national champion, this is a dark mild which is unusual for its hoppiness. Having said that it comes with the usual ruby colour, chocolate, coffee, fruity roasted flavour, with a 3.8% abv. Alton’s Pride, yet another national award winner, CAMRA Supreme Champion Beer of Britain 2008. A good English ale, clean, fresh and hoppy, coming in a 3.8% abv.
Parker cooked for Queen and country in Aldershot, so he knows is way around, he mentioned a few barracks names, the rest of the PRATS had no idea but the landlord knew where they were. Crash!, Pharp sends his Warthog sprawling, almost soaking the bag of Yummy Yum poppadum’s with green chilli, including dip. Parker’s trousers now have a suspicious looking splash where blokes don’t really want one. Within 2 shakes of a Maori’s tewhatewha, the landlady is out with the bar towels mopping up. Time for another round of ales, same all round. There’s a most unusual sign on the bar, ‘PACK OF 8 TISSUES ON SALE. 50p’. Never seen a sign in a pub like that before, they’d sold out as well, thankfully Citra didn’t need one, he still had room on his sleeve. By now the Weebles had arrived, Marshall, Wort, Petit Chemise and Petit Pantaloons. Full marks to Pantoloons, she drove down, Chemise was driving home, good planning. These girls are slowly catching on with all the bloke’s tricks, don’t tell Mrs Fuggles. It’s also noticeable that since the Petit’s tied the knot, Chemise is drifting towards a Moyen, the marmite and cheese sausage rolls baked by Pants was clear evidence of the culprit. One more round before we had to get parked up in the ground.
Time for footy for Pharp and Fuggles, we had official duties to perform, whilst Parker and Citra thrashed down another ale in the Crimea pub. Which by a strange quirk was “half a league, half a league, half a league onward” just down the road, not quite that far but I had to get something from the ‘Charge of the Light brigade’ in. Time for a Michael Caine moment, did you know that Deene House, the other side of Steel town, is the home of the Brudenalls, the Earls of Cardigan. It was the 7th earl that lead the charge of the light brigade at Balaclava. Not a lot of people know that. As a nod towards the local footy club, the ale in the Crimea was Aldershot Town Ale, 3.8% abv brewed by Marston’s, probably re-badged standard stuff.
The EBB stadium is right in the town centre, with very little room to move. Getting into the car park was a bit of a chore, but we eventually got parked up. We spotted the manky cat club badge on the score board, the chairman of Aldershot was only too pleased to put the right one up. A beautiful playing surface, which received more water than was probably required, it even got another dousing at half-time.
The match, well we did ok, it was one of those games where the opposition win but you’re not sure how they did it. We had our chances, but didn’t take them. A decent turn out by the vermillion horde, made plenty of noise, but it wasn’t to be 3rd time lucky. The club did itself proud throughout, with the players and the supporters taking joint centre stage. Well done all round.
Time to go home, as we left Aldershot, Pharp unleashed a Triple FFF, thankfully he was firing blanks. As is almost always the case when going around this section of the M25 we go to the Land of Liberty, Peace and Plenty in wealthy Heronsgate.
There are quite a few posh pads either side of the road. But not the LOLPP, this is a proper pub, with 10 handpumps, lovely. We always get a welcome from the landlord, who will look at us and proclaim ‘Kettering Town’, we all nod appreciatively. Where to start, https://www.landoflibertypub.com/2.html you will very often see ales from Tring, Downton, Dark Star, Leighton Buzzard breweries, plus plenty more from all over the country. Fuggles and Citra went for Downton’s Quadhop, Parker had Leighton Buzzard’s Captain Cook whilst Pharp settled for Tring’s Mansion Mild. Fuggles also sneaked in a half pint of Dark Star Green Hopped IPA 2018. We’ve had Quadhop quite a few times, even at the Poppies beer festival. A nice pale ale, as the name suggests it’s brewed with 4 hops, easy drinking, slight citrusy aroma very moreish bitter. Captain Cook, no not the famous sea captain, but Alistair Cook England’s cricket captain. Light bodied, not palette blowing but easily drinkable all day, coming in at 3.8% abv. Mansion Mild, as you might expect with Pharp, it’s brown, his favourite colour when it come to ales, and bizarrely his underpants. A creamy head, with hints of brown sugar, toasted malt and fruits. 3.7% abv. Pharp must have liked this one, he didn’t knock it over. The Darkstar Geen Hopped IPA 20118 was shared around as a taster, coming in at a whopping 6.5% abv, was just too strong to guzzle down on your own. Crikey, powerful or what, very bitter as you might expect with a green hopped ale, alcohol vapours coming off as well, very, very nice.
The Weebles were already in residence enjoying Cornish pasties, brought up fresh from Cornwall every week. Not to be outdone Pants whipped out her radio-active marmite and cheese sausage rolls, they were wrapped in lead lined aluminium foil and glowed a yellowy marmitey brown, right up Pharp’s street, so he duly obliged by woofing one down. Another round, this time Fuggles went for Captain Cook, it was same again for Pharp and Citra, Parker was driving so had reached the limit. The usual post-match debates ensued, Marshall knows best, or was it Pharp. Just time for our last ales of the day. We have forgotten what we had, time for home, we dropped Pharp off around 8:40, as we pulled up, the rats must have got wind of our pending arrival as they were pouring out of the sewers near Chez Pharp. We got back into God’s chosen town at around 9:00pm. Thankfully, bloody ‘strictly sodding come prancing’ was almost over.
A decent day out, our FA Cup run is over for another season, downed some decent ales in 2 very good pubs.
The PRATS are
back on the road. Pharp has returned from his fishing trip somewhere north of
Scotland, either the Orkneys or the Shetlands. I suspect we’ll get the full
unabridged story, Pharp is not known for his brevity, even his farts go on for
ages, they even change note halfway through, several times.
Today we are off
to a new ground, Alvechurch, the Lye Meadow, but not new pubs, we’ve supped
many an ale around these parts over the years. It was around 10:15am when Parker
and the PRATS mobile arrived at Chez Fuggles. It was a lovely day, full
sunshine although the slightest nip in the wind, it was woolly jumper attire
today. Citra was already in the back seat thumbing his Iphone8. The obligatory “how
are you doing my old ducks” ensued before we fell silent, punctuated by the occasional
‘bing’ from Citra’s phone. We were en route to the house of Pharp in god’s
chosen cesspit; Rushden. Pharp lives there because his anal emissions blend in
with the local ambience.
we go via the A45 instead of the A14, he goes that way 3 days a week. It seemed
strange going south when we were supposed to be going west. Nobody told Pharp
it was 8 miles further. Nevertheless, it turned out to be an inspired decision as
the A14 was at a standstill, it could have cost us 2 pints drinking time. We needn’t
have worried about Pharp going on endlessly about his fishing trip, it was
worse. Pharp is going for a PL. Now I know I’ve already said Pharp doesn’t do
brevity, but he does do acronym’s and all that stuff then proceeds to explain
to us what the acronym is, PL = Personal Licence. Pharp does legal stuff, it’s his
job, so as you can imagine the detail, detail after detail after detail. Citra
was comatose sitting in the back seat next to Pharp, even the perpetual ‘bings’
from his phone didn’t snap him out of his state of comatosity, Is that a word? Who
knows what an EMRO is? Was one question. For those interested it’s stands for ‘Early
Morning Restriction Order’, we then spent the next 40 miles debating when is
morning, day or effing night. Thankfully, we were about to arrive at Alvechurch
marina and the wonderful Weighbridge Inn. It took about 5 minutes to wake Citra
up. He had those spiralling circles in his eyes, you see them in Tom and Jerry
cartoons when Tom has had the frying pan whacked on his head. His bottom jaw
was all floppy, dangling on his chest, just a hint of slather fobbing in the
corner of his gaping mouth. The words ‘Blue Monkey BG Sips’ hollered in his
general direction did the trick. He was out the car and into the bar quicker
than the entire underpants department can run out of M&S when they see
Pharp enter the store.
is a real pub, http://www.the-weighbridge.co.uk/
compact with 4 square rooms, one of them is the kitchen. It has a bar area, a
sort of lounge for diners and another snug type bar with a serving hatch. The
walls are covered with all sorts of breweriana and canal barge memorabilia.
There is a sort of smoking tent cum loggia outside, with the toilets further
down the alley. There is a beer garden to the side. The Weighbridge is beside
the Worcester – Birmingham canal with a vast marina full of colourful barges.
The pub has 7 handpumps, always ales available from Kinver and Weatheroak
breweries. Pharp kicked off with Kinver Bargee a regular ale here, quite pale
for Pharp, he prefers a more chestnut type ale. Bargee comes in at 4.0% abv, late
hoppyness with a dry finish, very refreshing. Citra and Fuggles went for BG
Sips whilst Parker had a coffee. BG Sips is a lovely pale ale, very refreshing
ale and easy drinking at 4.0% abv, always popular at beer festivals and very
often the first one to be sold out. Winner of numerous Gold awards. Pharp and
Citra went for some solids, it was inevitable they’d go for the Black Country
faggots, thankfully they didn’t come with mushy peas, otherwise Pharp would be
guess who has just walked into the pub with his entourage? Only JC, no not him,
Jeremy Corbyn, Jezzer or Jerry to his mates. He had what looked like the local
Labour head honcho with him. A little round chap with a snug fitting suit he
bought yesterday, with a permanent Cheshire cat grin across his physog. Another
bloke looked like he was looking for a baby to kiss, he must be an MP, he
looked like a ponce, smiling at everybody, sincerity personified. You could hear
the locals almost silent utterings, under their breathes, “ferck off you ponce”
drifting around the small bar. We thought about inviting Jezzer to become a
member of the PRATS, but after due consideration we determined that he was over
qualified. One of the locals piped up, “can you sort the water shortage problem
JC”. His spokesperson replied, if anyone can, Jerry can. A silent snigger tittered
around the small bar.
In strode the
food waitress person, she hollered “two faggots, chips and peas”. Fuggles chirped
up “I’m chips, he’s peas” pointing to Parker “and these two are the faggots”. The
bar echoed with a chortle all round. Joking apart the faggots looked lovely, as
Dick Emery’s Mandy would put it, “ooh you are offal, but I like you!”.
It wasn’t long
before more Poppies supporters started to drift in, The Weebles included
Marshall, Petit Chemise, Wort and Betweenthesticks. Marshall was wetting himself
about Jezzer in the lounge, so excited he shook his hand when JC left the pub.
Marshall said he wouldn’t wash it his hand for two weeks. We suggested he
wouldn’t need to use any toilet paper for two weeks either.
Time for more
beer, Fuggles and Citra went for Weatheroak Keystone Hops, coming in at 5.0%
abv it’s a bit early for the strong stuff. A lovely pale ale and quite hoppy,
Fuggles used to drink this at the Coach and Horses at Weatheroak Hill where it
was once brewed. A bit of a tiff, split the brewery from the pub with the
brewery now down in Studley, we’ll be in there when we go to Redditch.
then the Mitchells, plus a few more Poppies traveling band arrived, the pub was
getting busy now with around 18 supporters in and around the pub. Another round
of ales, this time is was Green Duck breweries Sitting Duck pale ale brewed
with Amarillo hops. Very citrussy although more orange peel than grapefruit. A
delicious, moreish, refreshing pint. We could have sat all afternoon thrashing
this one down but the footy beckoned.
We finally arrived
at Lea Meadow, nestled amongst the rolling verdant vista, on the edge of the
Lickey hills. A lovely setting, but this pitch has to be one of the steepest
slopes, I half expected to see some kid pushing a bike up the hill flogging
Hovis bread accompanied by a brass band. The slope measures a 2.8 metre drop
from one corner diagonally to the other, in fact it’s a 2metres from the top
corner to the centre spot. (Ref: Ordnance Survey website). Nevertheless, the pitch is in good condition,
lots of grass all over and appears quite lush. The clubhouse bar serves fizzy
wazz in most flavours.
Well, it took
just 2 minutes for the ‘Church’ to fall into the almost weekly trap, their defender
sent Rhys Hoenes sprawling arse over tit, the man in black pointed to the spot,
one up. The new boy and the returning from suspension lad looked a tad match
unfit. It wasn’t long before the almost weekly defensive ‘balls up’ led to an
equaliser, one each. An unmarked Towers nodded in on half-time, two – one up.
The whistle invited the swirling and wielding of handbags, with a couple of
names going into the ref’s book. We pretty much dominated the second half. An
almighty ‘Church’ balls up saw Rhys Hoenes tap into an empty net, Three – one final
score. Three more points in the bag.
Time for more
ale, just a very short 10minute journey to the aforementioned Coach and Horses
at Weatheroak Hill, marvellous.
A big pub with
loads of rooms, the top end near the car park is mostly restaurant, the middle
is the lounge and snug, the bottom end of the building is the bar area. A large,
very busy beer garden and a nice little brewery shed, home of Weatheroak Hill
A great pub
with up to 10 ales to chose from, usually 4 of their own, Icknield Pale ale, a
lovely light, hoppy refreshing ale, 3.8% abv. Gold, a light 3.5% hoppy session
ale, Copton Common a robust 4.9%, based on a Vienna German lager recipe, and
finally Impossible Pale Ale, 4,2% brewed with New Zealand hops so you can
expect loads of grapefruit. Regular ales include Holdens Golden Glow, Hobson’s
Best, Hook Norton’s Old Hooky and Proper Job from St Austell. Two other guest
ales also available, including Green Pear from the Malvern Hills brewery.
Citra kicked off with Icknield Pale Ale, very nice, easy quaffing, a good session
ale. Pharp went for Old Hooky, a typical ale for their palate,
although 4.6% puts it in the premium ale category. Rich and fruity, reddish
tawny colour and malty. Parker settled for Hobson's Best, a 3.8% typical English ale.
The bar was
filling up, a group of cyclists arrived. Usual shape, scrawny legs, pot belly
wearing very tight clothes. It’s that padding at the back of their pants between
the buttock cleft that always makes me wonder if they’ve taken a dump whilst in
A small group
arrives at the next table, the bloke goes to the bar, the wife goes to the toilet
whilst Granny tries to sit down. Whoops, she missed the seat completely, in
fact there wasn’t one there. She crashed to the floor with a thump. Parker was
up like Spiderman to help her back to her feet and get her seated. Granny bent
down to pick something up from the floor, Parker shouted “mind your head”. Bang
another clout on the back of the head. She looked remarkably unscathed and
joked away as if nothing had happened. The bloke arrived from the bar, wife
arrived from the toilet oblivious to all the excitement Granny had gone through.
Really exciting times down at the Coach.
of ales, this time it’s Impossible for Fuggles, whilst Citra stayed on Icknield
and Pharp stayed on Old Hooky. As expected the New Zealand hops bring out loads
of citrus grapefruit. Fuggles always enjoys hops from the land of kiwis. Very
Nearly time for
home, but not before Fuggles thrashes down a Proper Job and Citra goes for the Malvern
Hills brewery Green Pear. This is Black Pear with green hops so it is a
seasonal ale, very hoppy with loads of aroma, 4.4% abv golden ale. Sounds nice.
Time for home,
a good day out, decent pubs, decent ales, 3 points, sorted.
The Flirtybaboon beckons.
It was just after 10:30am when Mrs Fuggles hollered
“They’re here”. Trepidation, the thermometer was reading zero, the forecast was
for gusting winds. Nothing to do with Pharp, these were coming from the east.
Fuggles stepped out the front door as the Siberian wind howled around the cul
de sac. Minus 6 was the resulting blast, thankfully Fuggles was wearing his
thermolactic gonad hugging, passion killing, long-johns. Smug or what, could
have been minus 2, God’s dandruff was swirling around on the road surface.
It’s been 3 weeks since the last footy match, bloody
weather. Today we have the relatively short journey to Stratford Upon Avon,
visiting the, wait for it, MoodChimp Stadium. Unbelievable, what or who the
hell is or are MoodChimp. Time to google, MoodChimp is a chat app with a flirty
side and a dating app with a friendly side! Isn’t friendly a general
pre-requisite for a successful grapple with a stranger. Who the hell came up
with that name, MoodChimp, are you sure?
As we are on our way to the Bardlands, Pharp regaled us of
his years of Upstart Crow thespianism. He was often criticised for his over
exuberant unleashing of Bottom and Coriolanus but was always encouraged not to
dump his Richard the Third.
Hark! what yonder baboon’s arse does break, this scarlet
peach that stirs a quake.
The rumbling bowel spews forth a bellow, the pungent air of
These gasping throats that we do clutch, these wheezing
lungs that rattle much.
Briny tears well bloodshot eyes, the face contorts in
The curse of each damned inhalation, we succumb to Pharp’s
Just over an hour’s drive as we make our way to the Boar’s Head
in the quaint and clearly wealthy village of Hampton Lucy, which sits adjacent
to the River Avon. The tall white signs with numbers 1 to 6 told us we were on
the flood plain. You could see Pharp’s brain working overtime, he had a smirk
on his face, trying to come up with some lurid pun that included Hampton and
Lucy. The Boar’s Head is a nice old country pub just off the main drag, we arrived
at around 12:25pm. As we approached the pub we spotted two blokes in Poppies
regalia, it was TailbyOO and Vlad the Impaler, they were duly pamped at,
accompanied with a vigorous waving of two handed ‘V’ signs and mouth snarling “feeeerrrkk
oooofff” in their general direction, like you do.
On entering the bar, we were surprised to see a whole gang of
Poppies supporters already in there thrashing down the ales. The mini-bus in
front of the pub had ferried a whole load of familiar faces, clearly out for a
long day of ales, footy and curry. With us four, TailbyOO & Vlad and their
8 we were up to 14 Poppies faithful contributing to the Hampton Lucy economy. Five
handpumps adorned the bar with 4 in operation, we ordered our ales, bugger.
Suddenly the pump clips were being turned around, the beer had run out on 3 of
the pumps. Pharp and Parker managed to get their ales Ringwood Razorback, Citra
and Fuggles were waiting for Ringwoods Boondoggle to come on. Five minutes
later we were all swigging down our preferred tipple. All in good condition,
the Boondoggle is a delightful citrusy pale ale. Razorback was a fairly typical
English style session ale, Pharp and Parker were content. More ales became
available, Citra let out an excited shrill as Phipps IPA came on. A few minutes
later 5 Weebles came into the bar, we were now up to 19 Poppies ‘on the road’
faithful. We outnumbered the locals 2 to 1. The place was getting noisy, the
telly was showing Italy vs Scotland rugby. All in the bar were ridiculing the Sweaties
who were getting a pounding from the Azzurri, bugger it, the lucky sods get a
last-minute penalty. A couple of hours boozing and it was time to move on to Stratford,
as we leave the pub two more Poppies supporters wander in, the Silver Fox and
his mate. Crikey, that’s 21, it brings back fond memories of when we used to
travel in large numbers all over the far-flung corners of this country.
Nothing better than seeing a horde of fellow Poppies faithful
in a distant pub on their way to a match.
Citra is still gorping at all the local wenches hoping to
catch a glimpse of Hollywood babe Anne Hathaway who has a pad around these
parts. Daft sod, no Citra she doesn’t wear PRATS, it’s PRADA, for goodness
Once more unto the Flirtybaboon.
A desolate place that brings forth famine and dearth for
the vermillion horde.
Thrice we have cometh upon this barren place.
Thrice we have departed without succour or solace.
But we are a merry bunch, befuddled with mead, awash in ale,
we arrive with faith in our hearts and belief between our ears. This time we shall
smite this wretched foe upon the field of the Flirtybaboon.
The sign greets us, THE FLIRTY BABOON ARENA, country
Bumsnots and Fartlingtons most welcome.
It was cold, bloody perishing in fact. I saw one desperate
chap running across the terracing, he was leaning forward with his arms outstretched
before him, chasing a couple of meatballs. He was screaming at the top of his
voice, “bolingbrooks! bolingbrooks!”. Some chap a few yards in front of him was
getting ready to help him catch them. His foot was raised in readiness for a
stamp on the meatballs. “Nooooo! bolingbrooks!” echoed across the ground.
Despite the weather, occasional snow flurries and gusting
wind, the match was very entertaining. Long hoofs up the field from Whitey would
often be on their way back to him before they touched down. You could see
players shivering, stammering as they uttered “f-f-f-f-f-f-ferk th-th-this”. The
lads played well, very well in fact. They handled the conditions in a dominant
and commanding manner. The curse of the Flirtybaboon was swept away with a
resounding and convincing 4-0 win. Well done lads.
Time for home, we made our way to the Royal Oak in Naseby.
Parker chirped up in a, ‘listen to me I know something’ manner. “Did you know
the River Avon rises as a spring just a few hundred yards away?” Citra nodded, “did
you know Avon is the ancient Saxon word for cosmetics and toiletries?”
The Royal Oak is owned by the Towcester Mill Brewery, so it
came as no surprise to see a couple of their ales amongst the 5 handpumps. Black
Fire, a 5.2% black IPA and Crooked Hooker, 3.8% amber session ale brewed for
the six nations. Also available was Deuchars IPA, Fullers London Pride and
Fuggles favourite Oakham Ales Bishops Farewell, 4.6% of citrusy loveliness.
Pharp and Parker went for Hooker, Citra and Fuggles went for Bishops. We hung around
here for a good hour, thrashing down the ales. Fuggles sampled the Black Fire
before returning back to bash another Bishop. It was 8:20pm when we got back to
gods chosen town. All in all, an excellent day out watching the Poppies, great
pubs, great ales, great company, excellent Poppies support again and a great